Managing Director, Jigsaw, Google Adjunct Scholar, Washington Institute for Near East Policy New York, US
Jessie Lowry Francescon
Senior Advisor of CVE Communications, US State Department & Director of Dialogue and Communication, Hedayah Centre, Abu Dhabi, UAE
Associate Fellow, IDSA
Director of Operations Europe and MENA region Institute for Economics & Peace
Kavitha Kunhi Kannan
Public Policy Manager – India, South Asia and Central Asia, Facebook
The Moderator, Pandalai, opened the discussion by her initial remarks on how the misuse of social media has become the bane of digital age. She highlighted that the internet was assumed to bring positive changes like more connectivity and reducing the risk of innovation but it has actually amplified the threat of polarization of ideas making the world more intolerant.
Carpenter, in his Keynote Presentation, focused on Google’s institutional practices to counter online radicalization. He highlighted the way that Jigsaw looks at the nexus between online and offline platform and re-enforces each other in effort to keep their users safe. He then shared that YouTube has 400 hours of video uploaded on Google servers every single minute but the content out there is not found due to their unpopularity. Google then serves ads against them and uses the redirect method to counter the problem. He emphasized that the objective is not to create profound cognitive dissidence but to provide people with what they are looking for and create a cognitive break of small nature. In their 8 weeks of pilot project of people clicking on the ads both in English and Arabic it was found that 320,906 individuals clicked on targeted ads and the click through rate was 79% better than the average click through rate. Lastly, he highlighted the individualistic and localised nature of YouTube and Google searches, making it imperative for the counter narrative strategies to understand the local context for effective implementation.
Francescon, in her Keynote Presentation, highlighted the significance of multi-stakeholder approach in developing the counter narrative strategy. She then discussed how technology has changed the terrorist operations and stated that technology will change the security and military approaches; it will deliver prevention programs via education and job opportunities. It is going to change international models and initiatives for tackling the terrorism and recruitment efforts. Lastly, the recommendations included, National Action Plans like the World of Communications which is the new frontline in the battle against Violent Extremism (March 2018). Similarly, Global CVE Expo 2019 which is an immersive and interactive space to connect the right people, inspiring cutting-edge ideas and forges new partnerships by bringing those both inside and outside of the CVE community.
Stroobants focused on the information operation and psychological operation to influence the enemy and re-gain dominance on the battle field facing threat of insurgency and radicalization. According to him, the main drivers of radicalization are – (a) Justice, (b) Those who advocate justice, and (c) Those who get justice. After these three steps, recruiters come in and pick up those people who go frustrated with the system and they are the ones who get involved in violent activities. He then concluded by stating that radicalization is a personal process and de-radicalization as a response should also be a personal process.
Kavita Kunhi Kannan talked about the enforcement actions in two ways – (i) how does Facebook employ technology, i.e., Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML), and (ii) what human expertise does Facebook have? Kannan highlighted that Facebook has Counter Terrorism (CT) experts, presently over 200 in number who are recruited from various backgrounds like law and enforcement, intelligence or civil society. They together understand the activity and take the content down. Facebook further has about 7000+ content reviewers. What matters is that both AI and content reviewers are able to efficiently take bad content down. Further, she emphasized that radicalization not only has online stakeholders but offline stakeholders as well. Therefore, counter strategy to address the issue has to go beyond taking the content down and there is a much deeper role to be played by all the stakeholders in the system.
During the Panel discussion the Moderator, Pandalai, raised the issue of required state resources with Mr. Stroobants, to counter radicalization with the deradicalization strategies. He responded to this by suggesting that the solution to this does not lie in putting people in the prison but rather pulling them through the system in which clinical psychology, anthropology and social science is present to bring them to normal life. Kannan said that in India and South Asian, Facebook has established channels with law enforcement agencies for communication and coordination, especially in emergency situations. And secondly, Facebook has to follow a lot of legal processes that are in place. Going through that process may take time but adherence to those legal standards is needed for securing data. The session concluded with the fact that social media should be a force multiplier and national security debate.